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South-South Nigeria Peacebuilding Campaign Engages Local Leaders

By Tamami Jeon

Global Peace Foundation (GPF) Nigeria conducted a series of consultation meetings across ObioAkpor and Etche Local Government Areas of Rivers State on the 6th and 7th of December in 2021 to understand the context, identify and engage the right stakeholders to reconcile communal division, strengthen community resilience and reduce recruitment into extremist groups.

This peacebuilding work engaged a diverse group of community leaders, traditional rulers, tribal rulers, faith, youth, and women leaders. With them, GPF worked to transform attitudes and address behaviors, with the intent to foster a sense of community and social cohesion between disparate groups. GPF Nigeria believes that sustainable peace can only be achieved through relationships built on trust and respect. Through this, it is possible to reconcile even after a long history of conflict. Additionally, these relationships make it possible to move forward while still tackling the difficult issues every society faces. 

At the two-day consultation meetings with different stakeholder groups, the GPF Nigeria Country Director, Rev. John Joseph Hayab, gave an overview of the GPF vision and general approach. He explained that GPF had been working through many different ethnic and or religious disputes to find common ground and pursue the common goal of peaceful coexistence. He emphasized a need to prepare the youth to make positive contributions to society and the peace process. He remarked that youth should be encouraged to share "a belief that there is something to contribute to, one of building a united community free of violence." He cited the example of youth in Southern Kaduna who became vanguards of peace due to the One Family Under God (OFUG) Campaign there. He further stressed that the initiative in the South-South began in September 2021 at the commemoration of "World Peace Day" and the launching of its own OFUG campaign.

Participants generally agreed that the root cause of the lingering communal feuds in the area was a struggle over power and control of resources.  Through a careful dialogue process, the group discovered that the violent actions taken in the community was a symptom of a more significant conflict and not the core issue. 

The Paramount Leader (middle) and his council members

Magnus Omesun from the Akukabi community, who spoke on behalf of the youth leaders, appreciated GPFN for its intervention efforts. He stated that the youth leaders would work together with GPFN and provide the necessary support for the project to succeed. 

The Lolo (queen), Patience Agosto, the wife of the paramount traditional ruler, spoke on behalf of the women. She welcomed the GPFN team and promised to work with the team to help uplift the women's voices in the community. The Paramount traditional ruler blessed GPF and promised unwavering support for the campaign. He hoped that GPFN would fulfill its promises to the communities by implementing the activities as narrated. 

Mr. John Ogene of ObioAkpor Local Government Area was optimistic that the initiative would bring a lasting solution to the lingering crises in the South-South. He noted that with the help of GPFN, "I am optimistic that in a short period of time, peace will be restored in the region."